A Chinese student has been sentenced to nearly seven years in prison for importing more than 16 kilograms of cold medicine, used to make methamphetamine, inside household items including a teddy bear .
Zecheng Li, a 19 year-old student, pleaded guilty in the Manukau District Court today to 18 charges of the importation of a Class B controlled drug after ContacNT granules, a cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine, were found concealed within items including a teddy bear, bicycle frame, and in the packaging of some goods.
The quantity of ContacNT contained enough pseudoephedrine to manufacture between $7.4 to $11.1 million worth of methamphetamine Customs Investigations Manager Mark Day said.
Customs investigators arrested Li after courier packages from China, Hong Kong and Greece were intercepted and found to contain the ContacNT granules. Li arranged to have the packages delivered to a number of associates in the greater Auckland area.
Pseudoephedrine is a Class B controlled drug used in the manufacture of the Class A controlled drug methamphetamine, or 'P'. Importation of a Class B controlled drug carries a maximum penalty of 14 years' imprisonment.
Li's co-offender, Jayden Wenski, had pleaded guilty to his involvement in some of the importations and was sentenced to three years' imprisonment in December 2012.
Day said the drugs were detected following inspection of various consignments by Customs officers.
"This is a great example of the processes and intelligence we have in place to identify these packages and link them to the people involved," he said.
"Criminals are finding it harder to locally source products containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine so there is an increasing tendency for them to try and source it from overseas," Day said.
"While the methods of smuggling drugs into the country are constantly evolving, we have the technology and capability to find them."